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Over time, all buildings need to be refreshed. Years of use take their toll on exteriors and interiors alike. The Mountain Health Arena, which opened in 1977, is no exception.

For more than a generation, the plaza outside the main entrance was mostly an open space of concrete that provided little visual distinction. Now that has changed, and the area looks better for it.

Although the official ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration is several days away, people are already using the plaza’s new features, such as the fountain and splash pad. The plaza has more green space, and it has a covered area to provide shade in summer.

“In the last three days, there have been dozens and dozens of people stop by,” Cindy Collins, the arena’s general manager, told The Herald-Dispatch reporter McKenna Horsley last week.

Collins said she is working on a few activities for the plaza area, such as live music or family-oriented events. The screen above the arena doors can show videos, so outdoor movie nights could be held, she said.

Cathy Burns, executive director of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority, said the arena’s improvements were made possible by a tax increment financing district that was approved about 16 years ago. About $2 million from the TIF district and up to $500,000 from a Land and Water Conservation Grant were available to improve the exterior area of the arena.

Plaza improvements were the result of the work of several designers and companies. Architects were Edward Tucker Architects & Associates with Phoebe Randolph as the project lead and GAI Consultants Inc. with David Gilmore and James Yost as the project leads. The screen wall was built by Paris Signs with Anthony Wheeler and Wade Murphy as project leads. Bradley Leach was the graphic designer. The contractor was Wolfcreek Construction, with Danny Neuhart as project manager. The fountain was built by Fountain Technologies.

The arena must be refreshed continually if it is to remain the regional draw for concerts, trade shows and other events that it has been for nearly half a century. The plaza improvements should provide a generation of arena users and downtown visitors with a more pleasant experience than they have had before.

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